CTS Lansdowne – Recording Heritage
The History of CTS Studios
Originally known as Cine-Tele Sound Studios, CTS Studios was established by a consortium which included celebrated jingle writer Johnny Johnston, Peter Kay as managing director and John Elliot as technical director. Incorporated in 1956, the company opened for business in the Bayswater area of London, intent on breaking into television advertising and film scoring by offering the most up-to-date facilities and techniques.
This concept proved successful and during the earliest days of commercial television, CTS rapidly achieved a near monopoly of the TV jingle market. Eric Tomlinson joined CTS as recording engineer during the earliest part of its history – contributing much to the quality of recorded music – with John Richards subsequently joining the company as his assistant.
With many film sound stages of the day still using pre-war equipment, CTS was able to demonstrate substantial improvements to the recording quality of film scores, attracting regular business from US composers such as Burt Bacharach, Jerry Goldsmith and Quincy Jones. Dick Lewzey started working at CTS as recording engineer during the company’s Bayswater years, sharing the engineering duties with John Richards, and recording numerous albums and film scores for many artists and composers – such as Julie Andrews, Henry Mancini and Maurice Jarre. During the 1960s, with the CTS name now well established on the international film scene, the studios’ Bayswater era also saw the first recording of John Barry’s James Bond theme, for Dr No, featuring the celebrated guitar riff played by Vic Flick. The success of Dr No was soon followed by From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball, with the studios also gaining a high profile for record projects – industry legends, such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Junior, all recorded at CTS. Other film credits included Dick Lewzey’s recording of The Mission for Ennio Morricone – renowned as one of the composer’s best works.
The Music Centre Move
Following its move during 1972 to the purpose-built Music Centre site in Wembley, previously the home of De Lane Lea and opened by Princess Margaret, CTS Studios continued to focus on film scoring. By now the CTS team had expanded to some twelve staff, with Peter Harris as Chief Technical Engineer, John Richards as Senior Recording Engineer and Dick Lewzey as Recording Engineer – John and Dick were both directors of the company. They quickly re-established CTS in its new premises, with their notable credits encompassing scores for Pink Panther and Superman movies, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Omen. Alongside the film scoring, rock also featured during this period, with The Who, Slade and Roy Wood among the many artists to record at the studios.
Digital World First
The CTS ethos of standard-setting technical innovation resulted in Studio 1 becoming the world’s first comprehensive all-digital studio. Undeniably a technical challenge, this digital direction saw the studios’ Neve DSP console being installed in early 1985, closely followed by Sony 3324 digital multi-tracks and stereo recorders – Maurice Jarre’s score for The Bride was the first project to be recorded via the new digital signal chain.
CTS and Lansdowne
The scene had been set and, recognising CTS Studios’ immense potential, Adrian Kerridge, along with business partner Johnny Pearson, acquired the company in 1987 and ran the business in parallel with Lansdowne Recording Studios. Under Adrian and Johnny’s ownership, a programme of almost continuous refurbishment was instigated, and the four-studio complex thrived. Studio 2 was rebuilt and restyled from the ground up, by Recording Architecture, and went totally digital, while the traditional disc cutting facilities evolved into a digital editing suite. CTS Studios’ legendary Studio 1 continued to attract major film scoring projects, including Oscar-winning pictures such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love. However, the imminent redevelopment of Wembley Stadium forced the inevitable but reluctant decision to sell the site, in early 2000, marking the end of the company’s long and successful era at Wembley – its home since 1972. CTS Studios finally closed the doors on its Music Centre premises in June 2000.
The Colosseum Era
Always alive to a new challenge, the company immediately sought a new home, shrewdly identifying the Colosseum in Watford as an ideal opportunity. In its previous guise as Watford Town Hall, the building had earned a well-deserved and long-established reputation as a successful orchestral recording venue. However, projects at the Colosseum were wholly reliant on mobile recording facilities being hired in whenever required. The possibilities were researched, and negotiations pursued, resulting in the creation of CTS Lansdowne’s present facilities at the Colosseum – a purpose-built and permanently-equipped control room, designed by acoustic experts Recording Architecture, with all the necessary cabling and communications systems in place. Within a few months, this visionary activity had transformed the Colosseum into a world-class orchestral recording venue – one of the largest permanently-equipped facilities of its type in Europe and with a musical acoustic to equal the best available.
The benefits of the Colosseum’s transformation were quickly spotted by the film industry and early 2001 saw CTS Lansdowne’s first project in the new facilities under way – recording Alan Silvestri’s score for The Mummy Returns. This was followed later that same year by Howard Shore’s award-winning score for the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring – the first of the immensely successful trilogy. Howard had visited the Colosseum during the recording sessions for The Mummy Returns, beginning a relationship with CTS Lansdowne that saw the next two films in the trilogy – The Two Towers and The Return of the King also being scored at the Colosseum.